VACE’s Statement on Recommended Stipend Minimums

The Visual Arts Coalition for Equity (VACE) announces recommended stipend minimums for artists and cultural workers in the region. Coalition members have agreed to meet these or exceed these stipend minimums by July 1, 2024.

While many organizations use W.A.G.E for Work to set their artist stipends, VACE members have found that these numbers need to be expanded and refined for our region. Working with W.A.G.E.’s recommendations alongside our own research amongst coalition members, peer organizations within the region, and the Art/Museum Salary Transparency 2019 Google sheet, we have devised these wage and stipend minimums to balance the very real need for a higher wage and the very small budgets our orgs operate with.

In 2023, VACE members and peer arts orgs in the area, agreed to meet or exceed a set of wage minimums  for their own organizations’ arts workers. As of January 1, 2024, VACE members have succeeded. We hope these additional stipend recommendations will now set the stage for raising our external payments to artists, curators, and writers we engage.

Coalition members see a need to address pay minimums for arts workers as a way to increase transparency in the industry and proactively prioritize the value that arts and cultural workers bring to our city. In 2021 the National Endowment for the Arts reported that Arts and culture programming has added 28 billion to Pennsylvania’s state economy. Despite this, the arts sector has long been plagued by low wages, limited compensation, and job insecurity, particularly for gig workers and arts entrepreneurs. We invite other arts organizations in our region, large and small, to commit to meeting these wage and stipend minimums and to share pay information more transparently. As Pittsburgh’s larger gentrification process continues to grow and as inflation rises, we must make steps to ensure pathways for the individuals and organizations of the arts community to exist. This kind of transparency and advocacy is critical to building those pathways.

The movement towards improved pay standards for arts workers has gained massive traction over the last three years, with more museums across the country unionizing in part to increase minimum wages and raises. The online art journal, Hyperallergic, even named “Major Wins for Unionized Arts Workers” as one of the art stories that defined 2022. As of 2023, the Carnegie Museum of Art’s workers have a union contract, boosting the museum’s base pay from $12/hour to $16/hour. Following the wave of pay equity for arts workers, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh has begun their campaign for unionization.

All of the founding organizations of VACE directly serve artists in the region and regularly present artwork through their programs. Our coalition represents an important part of the visual arts landscape in Pittsburgh as we all employ or contract a variety of artists and art workers. We collectively aim to improve our field and be able to better serve our communities. The members of VACE include the following organizations: Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, Brew House Association, Bunker Projects, Casey Droege Cultural Productions, Nafasi on Centre, Silver Eye Center for Photography, and Women of Visions, Inc.

The Visual Arts Coalition for Equity was initially funded through a grant from the Arts Equity Reimagined Fund